Tuesday, May 22, 2007

More on Fundamentalism

Mikey K:

Greetings treasured friend of the east coast.

I just finished watching a documentary and I was wondering if it was one you had seen - "Jesus Camp." It's about Evangelicals/Christian Fundamentalists and how they're raising an "army" of Christian youth. Being that you're one of the most intelligent friends I have, and certainly one of the most religious, I was intrigued to hear your thoughts. If you've not seen it, I highly recommend it. Let me know.


Hi Kevin,

I have not seen Jesus Camp, however I had been fully aware of it since it’s release quite some time ago. I was always a fervent supporter to anything that brought attention to the fundamentalist psyche that has so tainted our country. Don’t believe me? Ask Andrew Sullivan, or read his book.

I have blogged before about fundamentalism. Once again, what I have seen personally and what I understand Jesus Camp has shown to others is that fundamentalism is pervasive, and found in places that seem, and probably are harmless. But, how harmless can a thought be? Or an ideology?

I grew up thinking Catholicism was some great evil that was so restrictive and ideological on its own. Boy was I wrong, because in certain respects I believe The Vatican to be much more open-minded. For example, Pope John Paul II said that the Catholic Church was open to the theory of evolution. However, the hierarchy of the church can be intolerant in other places. But what I have seen from fundamentalism is a hi-jacking of what it means to be a Christian.

Let us just take a look at tolerance. I see none of it from fundamentalists. Fundamentalism is about crusading, and as Sullivan wrote in his book, crusades are not about persuasion, but about coercion. Sullivan also wrote about what it would be like for non-Christians in a “divinely sanctioned order” (that is to say, if Rick Santorum had the government he hopes for):

The guarantee of minority religious freedom, in other words, would no longer be constitutional protection, but majority benevolence.

That is not the country I thought my parents immigrated to.

Kevin, I will leave you with a short story, something that I witnessed not but a few days ago. In my Bible study, I was listening to my friends describe their church service and they told me that they were encouraged to speak in tongues.

Now, do me a favor, and actually come with me to wikipedia to examine what’s going on here. And this is the problem of fundamentalism. First, there is a literal interpretation, and as even wikipedia informs us, in translation from Greek, Paul did not write the word “unknown” in front of the word “tongues.” But it can be argued, and probably will by fundamentalists, that it’s just semantics. In any case, there are a few things to consider when Paul wrote speaking in tongues.

First, while Paul encouraged people to speak “in tongues,” he meant for people to do so as to speak to God. It is meant for NO ONE ELSE. This proves to me what I had always thought about fundamentalism, which is that it’s more for themselves than others. When you see this, it is merely for their image. So as to say, “I am a better Christian than you; I speak in tongues.”

Second, Paul also indicates that not all Christians do, or are to, speak in tongues. Yet, here I am, hearing this story from my friends that they are so encouraged to speak in tongues. Why? What’s the motivation? How does speaking in tongues lead people to God? How does this help anyone in anyway?

As a Christian myself, I will not discourage the practice, per se, but I will say this: We have come as a society, a civilization, to the point of such clear ability to say how we feel in an articulate manner, even about topics such as God and religion. I see that the only reason for anyone to speak in tongue and to do so publicly is solely for the purpose of publicity, not God.

And I think that in the end that will be fundamentalisms downfall. Their actions and beliefs are about themselves, their fears, and their un-Jesus-like intolerance of others, not God. Don’t believe me again? Read up on the debate for the bill on immigration.

Your friend,
Mike K.

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